The history of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can never be complete without Sushma Swaraj and the workers of the party will be inspired by her for generations. She continues to be a source of strength for us even though she is no longer with us. The party will continue to move forward on the path shown by her.
She would even scold me if she felt that what I was doing was not right. Just as parents, look after their children, she would look after me. She would also scold me about my health.
When I got re-elected after the Lok Sabha elections, we met at the party headquarters, she kept her hand on my forehead, it reminded me of my elder sister. I told her that my two elder sisters were no more and I think of you as my elder sister, she was so touched by my statement that she had tears in her eyes.
After I became a minister for the second time, I went to meet her and spent nearly one-and-a-half-hours. It was obvious that I had become a minister and she was no longer a minister, and everyone was a little sad about it. But she never felt bad about these things and had a balanced approach. Even if she had to convey a stern message to someone, she would always find a way to do it politely and with elegance.
When I decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Nagpur, she told me not to contest because if I lost the election, my political career could get jeopardized. She asked me to choose a safer seat. But I was insisting that I would contest from Nagpur and this decision surprised her. But when I won the election and went to meet her, she was very happy. She told me that I had achieved what I had planned to do.
In politics, when we attack the Opposition, we are often told that we should not wound people, but convey our message, and she did it beautifully.
The electoral contest in Bellary, Karnataka, when she contested against former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is still remembered by people. She always did what the party wanted her to do, and till her last days, she followed the political developments carefully. Her last tweet on the abrogation of Article 370 was an example of this. She was happy with the decision on Article 370.
When her daughter was not keeping well, I had prepared paranthas and dahi ki chutney, and sent it to her residence. She liked it so much that she used to often talk about it. When I used to visit her residence, she would get poha made especially for me because she knew that I like poha a lot.
Similarly, when I was unwell, she brought a doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for my check-up. She convinced me to go to AIIMS and get all the tests done. Later, she called the doctor to check on my health.
She used to be very concerned. She even called my family members in Nagpur to enquire about my health and told them that they should convince me to be more vigilant about my health. My relationship with her was like family.
She had a charismatic personality, which used to attract people, but her biggest strength was her ability to work tirelessly for the benefit of the party, and her own performance as a political leader.
It was in her nature to perform her duties with honesty and that is why when she realised that there were lot of restrictions because of her health, she decided not to contest the 2019 general elections.
There have been many firsts in the political journey of Sushma Swaraj. She was the youngest leader to become a cabinet minister in a state government, she was the first woman chief minister of Delhi and the first full-time woman external affairs minister, after former prime minister Indira Gandhi. But I do not think she ever thought of herself just as a woman.
She would often tell me that we should do something for women’s reservation in politics, and I would always agree with her. She rose in politics and public life not because she was a woman, but it was her ability and capability which helped her grow in politics and reach these milestones.
She grew in politics under the guidance of stalwarts such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, then she worked with second-generation leaders of the BJP like me. When I was the party president, she would really look after me.
After I became the BJP president and came to New Delhi, at that time we used to sometimes have differences within the party on several policy issues, we used to have differences within the state units and sometimes decision-making was difficult in the parliamentary board also. I used to find it difficult to resolve the differences or build unanimity. So, I used to seek her help in the entire crisis.
When I gave up the post of the BJP president, she was really sad because she had realised that false allegations were made against me. She had even asked me why I gave up the post. She used to never react, she was always patient.
(The writer is the Union minister for road transport and MSMEs)